By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
The Coyotes are one of the most eclectic groups of players in the NHL.
Smith, the goaltender, is among the league's best. Captain Shane Doan, is the last remaining member of the original Phoenix Coyotes roster. The team's regular-season points leader, Ray Whitney, turned 40 earlier this month, while defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who's averaged more time on the ice during the playoffs than any of his teammates, isn't quite old enough to join his teammates at bars.
Coach Tippett is a proven winner. In his ninth season in the league as a head coach, he's missed the playoffs once. He's led the Coyotes to the playoffs in each of his three years here.
That's an accomplishment that the "Great One," Wayne Gretzky, couldn't come close to in his years coaching the Yotes, though Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney told reporters that both he and Gretzky knew Tippett was the right guy to lead the team to greatness.
As noted, the Coyotes won their first playoff series since moving to Phoenix this year, beating the Chicago Blackhawks in six games — five of them overtime thrillers — before moving on to send the Predators packing.
As for whom the winner of the West might face for the Cup, the Eastern Conference final between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils reignites an age-old Big Apple-area pissing match — and these East Coast teams probably are sneering at the fact that either a team from the desert or Hollywood will play for the title.
Tippett, for one, puts the best face possible on the team's success, saying it looks as if Phoenix and its environs finally will become a hockey town. A championship team would help, as Jerry Colangelo proved when he and his partners put a quality Diamondbacks team on the field to win the 2001 World Series over the vaunted New York Yankees.
"There is a real good core group of fans here, but anytime you have a chance to expand that core, it can only be good for the situation," Tippett said a few days before the start of the conference finals. "If the new [owner] is out there looking at the buzz in the city right now, you'd think he has to be very happy."
On the afternoon of May 7, just hours before the Coyotes faced off in game five of the Western Conference semifinals against the Nashville Predators in Glendale, the NHL announced that Commissioner Gary Bettman would hold a press conference at Jobing.com Arena an hour before the game's start.
The reason, according to the league's brief announcement, would be "to discuss the ownership situation of the Coyotes." This, an hour before the Coyotes were to start a game that would close out the series.
Bettman was there to deliver a message about the Coyotes that people in the Valley have heard repeatedly since 2009 — new ownership has been found.
That principal owner turned out to be Greg Jamison, former San Jose Sharks CEO and president, and he was at the press conference alongside Bettman to confirm the deal.
Jamison's a guy who has made West Coast hockey work. He took over as Sharks president in 1996, when the team was awful. After that, the Sharks made the playoffs every year except one before his departure in 2010, and they made the conference finals twice.
What this meant was that ticket sales skyrocketed.
It took years of rebuilding, as is typical in non-traditional hockey markets, but because the Sharks were perennial contenders for the division championship, attendance at home games has been at or near capacity every game night at the Shark Tank since the 2007-2008 season.
The league's betting that Jamison can take this banner year for the Yotes and, with his prowess as a team show-runner, make something like that happen in Phoenix. Aside from the irony of this being a desert city with a hockey team, San Jose was no more a hockey market than Phoenix before Jamison arrived on the scene.
"It is exciting, and this is a product we believe in," Jamison said at the press conference. "We want to . . . thrive here in Glendale. It really comes down to hard work, believing in a set of goals and executing them."
The deal for Jamison and his group's purchase of the Coyotes was referred to by Bettman as "an understanding," an awkward but necessary description, considering the number of parties that have tried, and failed, to purchase the team.
Certain Glendale city officials blame the Goldwater Institute for one of those failures.
Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer was a promising buyer of the Coyotes – until the Goldwater Institute discovered that Glendale was about to sell $100 million in city bonds to aid Hulsizer's purchase. Goldwater threatened to sue the city, saying the state Constitution "prohibits government financial gifts to businesses."
Whether the payment to Hulsizer would have been legal or not never was settled, as Hulsizer got fed up and walked away.
The day the "understanding" between the NHL and Jamison was announced, Goldwater Institute president Darcy Olsen issued a statement making it clear that her group still is watching.